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Bighorn Sheep ‘Skis’ Lake Creek
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Sunday, January 14, 2024
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

The single-digit temperatures seemed to keep skier at bay. But it didn’t seem to deter a big horn sheep who picked his way through the sagebrush and freshly fallen snow in the heart of the Lake Creek Nordic trails on Saturday.

The sheep appeared unperturbed by a lone skier scissoring her way along the rough groomed tracks in 8-degree midday temperatures. It stopped every minute or so to survey the landscape as it made its way from the vicinity of Griffin Butte towards the Big Wood River.

It’s not uncommon to see moose in the vicinity of the Harriman or North Fork trails near SNRA. And it’s possible to spot an occasional coyote, bobcat or fox at the Sun Valley Nordic Center. But bighorn sheep, if that’s what it was…not so much.

They’re more commonly seen in Hells Canyon, Salmon River country, including the Upper Salmon River between Challis and Salmon, and the Owyhee Mountains southwest of Boise. Perhaps this one was a young male doing a big walkabout, suggested a former Bureau of Land Management employee.

Idaho is home to California Bighorn Sheep and to Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep.

They’re thought to have originally crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia to North America. Once there were millions of bighorn sheep in the West. Now there are merely thousands.

The Lake Creek visitor had a brown coat with a white deer-like rump. The largest bighorn sheep ever caught in Idaho was 201 pounds, but males can surpass 500 pounds.

Unfortunately, wild bighorn sheep in the West have been subject to getting pneumonia from domestic sheep. So, thankfully, the trailing is over!

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